Most Improved Player is an award where voting is always cloudy. People argue that you shouldn’t vote for a young player who’s just now getting used to the league, or someone who just gets the ball more. How do you vote for such an award? There is a grey area on what makes a player the Most Improved, and even further what makes the other candidates less improved. Well, let’s go into who seem to be the three favorites for the award, and of course decide who the winner should be.
3rd – Jrue Holiday: Jrue seems to be the popular pick for the award, but I am not on the bandwagon. Personally, it is a hard position for me to take because I thought he was underrated two seasons ago. I saw a 20 year old kid playing at a relatively high level and wondered why more people weren’t talking about him. As for this season, I don’t see him as the Most Improved at all. Jrue has gotten better, being an All-Star should cement that, but I believe it’s fractions less than the two guys in front of him. My reasoning behind that is that Holiday has only improved in one dimension. He has become much more of a pure point guard, as his Assist Percentage this season is 11.9% better than it has ever been in his career. That is a jump of someone going outside the top 20 to someone knocking on the door of being one of five best in league.
As for scoring, he is scoring more. This can be rebutted as he is just shooting more. I can’t even really differentiate his scoring this year to earlier seasons in any other dimension. The common perception says that he takes it to the hoop more, but it actually only seems that way because he also takes other kinds of shots more often. The last two seasons Jrue shot in the restricted area 32.5% and 29.5% of his total shots. This year he’s taking a very comparable 30.6% of his attempts in the restricted area. He’s still shooting more mid range jumpers (36.8%) than layups, and he’s still shooting very similar percentages. Other than taking a higher volume of shots, his scoring hasn’t changed much and there hasn’t been any other component of his game that looks considerably better.
2nd – Greivis Vasquez: This guy has made quite the revolution in his perception. In reality though, he showed signs of him potentially reaching this level last year. So that is what is keeping him from the top spot. As a distributor, he has gone from pretty average to flat out great. Vasquez is currently second in the league in Assist Percentage, and the only one ahead of him is Rajon Rondo. I don’t know how many games you need to qualify, but I don’t think Rondo would be on the list at the end of the season. That means that Greivis will probably be statistically the best distributor in the league for 2012-13. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. In terms of other parts of his game, Vasquez has an improved three point shot, but that is about it. He’s still not a great defender, but deserves any credit given to him for becoming a very solid player.
1st – LARRY SANDERS!: If you are looking at all around improvement, this is definitely your guy. SANDERS! used to be someone who couldn’t stay on the floor, whether it was through his play or a ridiculous amount of fouling. Now, he’s a bonafide Defensive Player of the Year Candidate as well as Most Improved Player. The main detractor from his argument is the minutes, and it is true he doesn’t play as much. I would argue that the amount of minutes he plays shouldn’t matter. This isn’t the “Guy Who Played 30 Minutes and Got Better” award. It’s the Most Improved award, and after featuring improvement in every area of the game, LARRY SANDERS! is the easy answer.
LARRY used to foul opponents at a rate of 7.4 fouls per 36 minutes. In case that doesn’t jump out at you, that is about a foul and a half more than the six you need to foul out. There was no way you could keep this guy on the court, right? Well this season SANDERS! has fouled at a rate of 5.1 fouls per 36, which isn’t ideal but it keeps him on the court longer. He is also the league leader in Blocks, and Block Percentage. The percentage means he isn’t only the guy getting the most blocks, but he’s getting the most blocks in percentages on the floor. His PER has jumped higher than either of the previous two players, which should key in on his overall improvement.
SANDERS! use to be a mediocre rebounder, but that has also changed. His 18% Total Rebound Percentage is good for 13th best in the league, and he was nowhere near that level before. Finally, we look to the improvement on the offensive end. LARRY was a liability before, which led him to be very difficult to be featured in more minutes in the Bucks’ rotation. This year though, SANDERS! has been an effective force on offense. Sure, he doesn’t have the post repertoire of Tim Duncan, but when you look at the numbers he isn’t taking anything away from Milwaukee. He’s shooting 52.5% from the field, which is certainly not something to take with a grain of salt. LARRY’s old offensive rating was 92, which is considered very poor. He’s posting a 108 mark this season, and that is a change to definitely consider. The Bucks still score more points with him on the bench, however he has the second best Net Rating on the Bucks (+4.5) behind just Mike Dunleavy. Lastly, SANDERS! Win Shares per 48 is better than either candidate. Before the season began, if you said LARRY affected his team winning more than Jrue Holiday or Grievis Vasquez, they would have called you crazy.
Reward the man for improving every part of his game, instead of a guy who may have only improved one or two facets.